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Dramatic Ammo Depletion

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Joel: [aims revolver and pulls trigger] *click* Shit!
Hunter: I know that sound... I've got you now, motherfucker!
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A character (usually the hero) is being chased by an armed gunman (usually the villain). After some time of chasing, shooting, and loads of property damage, the gunman corners them. There's nowhere left for the character to run, and they cower in fear as the gunman lines their sights with their target's head, and pulls the trigger.

(click)

Nothing. Not even a misfire. The shooter's gun runs out of ammunition right when they can get the killing shot.

This can represent the shooter's recklessness, especially if they've been shooting wildly & destroying all sorts of items & scenery in their efforts to kill the hero without paying any attention to the state of their firearm. However, this is not a case of Reckless Gun Usage used by people unfamiliar with firearms, but about characters that are. This is a nice aversion of Bottomless Magazines. This isn't to be confused with Where's the Kaboom?, as that is for explosive devices, while this is specifically for guns.

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It's not enough for a character's gun to run out at any point for it to count. The gun has to run out when it having ammo would allow the shooter to kill the target with a well-placed shot. This is why it's dramatic for the gun to fail at the one point they need them most. It's very rare for the audience to know that the weapon has no ammo, but the characters don't, but it's not unheard of. When dealing with handguns, this trope works a lot better with revolvers than semiautomatics — semiautomatics have their slides lock back upon firing the final bullet, leaving no questions as to how many rounds are still in the gun.

The inverse is Counting Bullets, where the hero counts how many shots the villain has fired and specifically analyzes the situation to their advantage. This is different from that trope in regards to the fact that in the heat of the moment, most characters can't be bothered to try to analyze such a hectic situation like that. Even then, if the villain isn't counting, and runs out at the last moment, it's an example of this trope, not Counting Bullets. Because the villain is not counting.

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This is more often than not done with villains, but examples of this happening to heroes exist.

A variation of this is It Works Better with Bullets, where another character deliberately invokes this by removing the bullets from the gun beforehand or takes another step to make the gun inoperable. A Subtrope of Reliably Unreliable Guns. See also Convenient Misfire.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Mai is a Mage Marksman with a six-shot revolver. When fighting her sister Maki in a practice battle, Maki starts Counting Bullets and rushes in after seeing her fire six in a row. However, this was a ploy by Mai, who can create a new cartridge in the chamber once a day—and apparently uses a revolver specifically to goad people into making this mistake. Then Maki catches the last bullet, and Mai really is left defenseless.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Kanryu Takeda attacks everyone with a gatling gun. In the manga version, when it looks like he's about to shoot Kenshin, he runs out of bullets, which Kenshin points out was bound to happen given the gatling gun fired 400 bullets a minute. In the anime version, the gun jams because Beshimi put a dart in the ammo belt.
  • The first episode of Sherlock Hound by TMS Entertainment has the villain attempt to shoot an escaping captive who's trying to clamber around the outside of the villain's hideout. However, the revolver used was taken from a mook who'd shot away the door to the escapee's room, leaving no unused cartridges in the cylinder. The villain conks the mook with the useless firearm in frustration.

    Comic Books 
  • In V for Vendetta, Richard Almond, the head of the local Secret Police, terrorizes his wife Rosemary one night with a revolver, acting as though he's going to kill her. At the end, he shows her that the gun wasn't loaded, but he tells her that one day soon, it will be loaded. A few minutes later he gets a call with a tip on where V will be and immediately rushes to the scene. Almond arrives in time to get the drop on V, stands across a hallway with his gun pointed at V, and pulls the trigger... only for it to click harmlessly and Almond realizes with horror that he forgot to load it before running out the door. V promptly kills him.
  • XIII: Subverted in one story where XIII is hunted by mercenaries. He finds a rusty old revolver in a cabin, and when the merc shows up, gets one shot and two clicks... then shoots a bullet at the gloating merc.
    -BANG click click-
    Merc: You fired your last bullet, amigo.
    -BANG-
    XIII: Two empty chambers in the cylinder before the last bullet, amigo. Must be the most threadbare trick in The Far West.

    Fan Works 
  • Double-subverted in Azumanga Royale, where Chiyo did make a point of counting how many rounds she fired from her six-shooter. Too bad she didn't check how many it contained in the first place when it was issued to her...
  • Lost to Dust: Yang Xiao Long runs out of bullets during her fight with Beowulf. Fortunately for her, Beowulf decides to put his weapons away and settle it with fists.

    Films — Animation 
  • Big Hero 6 has a variation. The climax has Yokai angrily lashing out at Hiro and Baymax with arms of microbots, he finally gets ahold of them, prepares for the final strike... and fails because he hasn't noticed the stray microbots getting sucked up into his own Cool Gate, leaving him with barely enough to stay in the air.
  • Ratatouille: When Remi and Emile are discovered by the old lady in the film's opening scene, she goes for the most extreme form of pest control available: a pump-action shotgun. She shoots the rats several times but misses, and when Emile is helplessly dangling from the ceiling lamp, she gets a clear shot as he cowers. She pulls the trigger, and nothing happens. However, she remembers to reload.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2 Days in the Valley: In the climax, Dosmo fools the assassin Lee Woods and gets the drop on him by Playing Possum, only for it to turn out that he'd already used all his bullets earlier in their shootout.
  • The hero (of a sorts) of Angels with Dirty Faces of course runs out of bullets in the final shoot-out just when he's completely surrounded with no seeming way out. This forces him to consider betraying the trust of his oldest friend, who walks into the shoot-out promising the police he can talk our protagonist down.
  • Back to the Future: After one of the Libyan terrorists guns down Doc Brown, they try to shoot Marty next, only for their gun to not fire. It's not clear whether the gun jammed, was out of ammo, or both.
  • Bet Your Life: Joseph has a bead on Sonny's back as Sonny is running away from him and squeezes the trigger, only to discover that he hadn't been counting his shots during the firefight and his gun is empty. By the time he's reloaded his gun, Sonny has disappeared into the bushes.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: When being chased by the newly empowered Steve Rogers, the Hydra spy Heinz Kruger keeps firing his gun, but Rogers dodges every shot. Eventually, Kruger resorts to taking a boy hostage to force Rogers to stand still long enough so he can get a clear shot, but just as he does, his gun clicks empty.
  • In Commando, during a fight Duke (the big black Green Beret) has Matrix dead to rights with a revolver aimed directly at his head and after a Pre-Mortem One-Liner pulls the trigger only for a loud "click" to occur and he realizes he's out of rounds. Matrix promptly finishes him by impaling him on a handy bit of broken furniture.
  • During the final shootout scene of The Crow, one of Top Dollar's henchmen ends up running out of ammunition in front of Eric's face before he gets walloped and shot himself. Normally since Eric has Nigh-Invulnerability thanks to the crow, such a thing wouldn't have mattered anyway, but this power has been negated due to Top Dollar shooting the crow.
  • Deadpool (2016): During a shootout on a highway, one of the bad guys starts shooting at Deadpool with their rifle after he peeks his head out from behind a car. He shoots at him all the way until he runs up to Deadpool afterwards and takes aim, only to discover that he emptied his clip on the car. Deadpool points out his stupidity and promptly shoots him in the head. Played for Laughs, as Deadpool's healing factor means that having any bullets wouldn't make much of a difference.
    Deadpool: Someone's not counting.
  • The famous "do you feel lucky?" scene from Dirty Harry has Callahan telling the punk in front of him that, at that moment, the main thought going through his head was "did he fire six shots or only five" from his .44 Magnum revolver, and claims that he'd lost track himself in all the excitement. He had, in fact, fired all six, and knew it, but was bluffing the punk into giving up. At the end of the film, he repeats the speech to the Scorpio Killer, who isn't so lucky.
  • Defied in Django Unchained. In the finale, Django shoots Miss Lara and her entourage with his revolver, and Stephen, the head house slave of Candyland, then points out that he fired all 6 shots. Django promptly pulls out a second revolver.
  • Full Metal Jacket: In the climax at 'Nam, James "Joker" Davis searches for a Viet Cong sniper that killed several of his squad members. After some sneaking through a burning building, he finds the sniper and points his rifle at their head. He realizes far too late that his gun is jammed when it clicks and alerts the sniper to his presence.
  • Early in Hard Boiled, Tequila Yuen runs out of bullets in his .357 Magnum revolver just as he tries to shoot the mob hitman Alan. This proves to be very convenient later when he discovers that Alan has actually been an undercover cop all along.
  • In The Killer, Ah Jong tells Fung Sei that he always saves the last bullet, either for himself or for his enemy. Following the shootout where he says this, he racks back the slide to eject the round still in the chamber in order to show Fung Sei that he wasn't bluffing. Much later, Fung Sei has a shootout with Wong Hoi and his men to try to get the money from him on Ah Jong's behalf, but unfortunately, he runs out of bullets just before he's able to kill Wong Hoi himself. It does not end well for Fung Sei.
  • Subverted in The Hard Way. Nick gets lucky in a shootout where a man firing at him seems to run out of bullets. The cop knocks the gun against a newsstand, and shoots into it, demonstrating it had merely been jammed.
  • James Bond:
    • Dr. No: Professor R.J. Dent tries to assassinate James Bond while in his sleep. However, the 007 agent knew of this and set up a fake dummy in his bed. Dent shoots the dummy 6 times, and the real Bond catches him. When Dent pulls his gun again and tries to shoot, the gun clicks empty, prompting James Bond to call him out on his mistake and kill him.
      James Bond: That's a Smith and Wesson. And you've had your six.
    • Licence to Kill: Pam arrives to save Bond when Dario is about to cut him and send him into a cocaine grinder. Pam fires two shots at him (one hits him) before her gun either jams or is empty. Bond pulls the distracted henchman into the grinder.
    • Spectre: Bond is chased by Mr. Hinx in Rome and tries using the rear machine guns of his Aston Martin DB10... only to find out they haven't been loaded by Q before he "borrowed" the car. So he settles for the rear flamethrower instead.
    • No Time to Die: Madeleine Swann guns down the mooks after her and her daughter, Mathilde. They only get captured when she runs out of ammo.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2: John Wick asks the Bowery King for a gun. The Bowery King hands him a pistol and specifically says it only has seven bullets. Although John is normally an expert in all firearm matters, he seems to completely forget about this. In a later fight, he quickly guns down six mooks, misses the seventh shot, and tries to shoot more only for the gun to click empty. After a brief look of surprise, he is forced to improvise by stealing weapons from downed mooks.
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd's Evil Twin manages to line a point-blank shot on Dredd himself, only for the stolen Lawgiver to announce it's out of lethal ammo. Dredd wrestles the guns out of him and switches to signal flares before shooting back.
  • Jumanji: The ruthless hunter Van Pelt chases the protagonist out of their home after he is summoned from the game with a large lever-action shotgun. After some chasing, and even attacking a police officer, Van Pelt lines up a good shot on the protagonist but has already used his last shotgun blast.
  • Played with in Last Action Hero. Through a magic ticket, Cowboy Cop action hero Jack and the Big Bad Benedict of his Show Within a Show are transported to the "real" world. At one point, Benedict advances on the pinned down Jack while firing his revolver and giving a Hannibal Lecture, until his revolver goes "click". Jack comes out of cover and taunts him about forgetting that, in the real world, guns don't have Bottomless Magazines. Whereupon Benedict reveals he had remembered that and had left one chamber in his revolver empty to provoke exactly this reaction and shoots the now exposed Jack.
  • In More Dead Than Alive, The Gunfighter Wannabe Billy Valence beats outlaw Luke Santee to the draw, only for the hammer to fall on a spent shell in the chamber. He pulls the trigger again and again with no result, and he realizes with growing horror, that he never reloaded his pistol after murdering Ruffalo. Earlier in the film, Cain had warned him never to holster an empty pistol, but Billy didn't listen.
  • In The Matrix, Agent Smith and Neo have a shootout in a subway. They eventually end up on the ground with each of them holding their pistols at the other's head. They in turn point out that the other's gun is empty. They switch to Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • In A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!, Sgt. Brent fires his Gatling gun at Col. Pembroke's feet; demanding to know where the hidden gold is. When Pembroke doesn't answer, he goes to shoot him but the Gatling gun runs dry. Brent quickly changes clips, but the delay gives Eli time to bring his own Gatling gun to bear on Brent and gun him down before he can fire again.
  • In Reefer Madness: The Musical, after Ralph completely loses it and Jack has to kill him, Mae realizes she can't put up with Jack anymore and turns on him. He tries to shoot her, only he'd emptied his gun into Ralph, so he can't defend himself as Mae bashes his head in.
  • In Speed, this occurs when Payne has his shotgun on Jack and tries to execute him, but runs out of rounds. He quickly arms his dead man's bomb switch.
  • Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat: Mardulak beats and wounds the villain in a Quick Draw fight, only to be out of bullets when he tries to finish him off with another shot.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has a heroic example. Sarah Connor keeps blasting the T-1000 with a shotgun, pushing it towards the edge of a ledge above a pool of molten metal. However just as the T-1000 is about to fall off, Sarah runs out of ammo. The T-1000 heals up his wounds and starts taunting Sarah, before the T-800 arrives and blows it off the edge using a grenade launcher.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Skurge battles Hela's undead army with two machine guns. The bullets easily destroy the zombies, but the guns eventually click empty. He uses the guns as clubs against the rest.

    Literature 
  • Black House: Near the end of the book, during the press conference to honor the four heroes that stopped the Fisherman, Wanda Kinderling (a woman whose husband, Thornberg, went to prison for murder thanks to protagonist Jack Sawyer) decides to use this opportunity to kill Jack (since she firmly believes her husband was innocent and Jack framed him). While Jack and his friends are on the stage, she draws a gun and shoots Jack Sawyer multiple times, then shouts "See you in hell Hollywood", and aims the gun at her head... only to realize that, in her eagerness, she emptied the gun, leaving no bullet for herself.
  • Maul: Lockdown: Sadaki Blirr uses up all of her blaster's energy firing frantically at a carnivorous wolf worm in a room with no light or sound, and then becomes a sitting duck for it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: Pablo confronts Kelly (who's possessed by a demon) at the high school dance, but can't bring himself to shoot her. She steals his gun and has no problem firing several shots at Pablo instead that all miss. Just when she has him cornered, the gun has run out of bullets.
  • In Altered Carbon episode "The Wrong Man", during the Elevator Action Sequence the Ghostwalker shoots at Ortega but Abboud manages to dive into the line of fire to save Ortega. First it looks like Ortega's death is only delayed but the subsequent clicking of the Ghostwalker's gun makes it clear that he used his last bullet for the shot, allowing Ortega to survive the attack. Watch the scene here.
  • The Good Cop: Subverted when Tony is in a shootout with a Dirty Cop, who hears Tony's gun click empty. He goes for the kill, only for Tony to shoot him in the shoulder and reveal that he faked the noise with a plastic water bottle.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). A variation when Spike is fighting hitman Gunther who empties his pistol, goes to reload only for Spike to grab his wrist to stop him inserting the magazine.
  • Daredevil (2015): In the season 3 finale, Dex runs out of ammo as he attacks Fisk's wedding reception. He aims his gun at Agent Hattley, who begs him to spare her, but his gun clicks empty when he pulls the trigger. So he throws the gun at her instead, knocking her out.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): In the season 1 episode "The Day that Wasn't", the Handler tries to shoot Five to stop him from changing the past, but Five uses his powers to dodge every shot. When the Handler can finally get a clear shot at him, it turns out she already used up her last bullet.

    Radio 
  • Invoked in The Goon Show episode "Six Charlies in Search of an Author":
    Seagoon: [typing] "Moriarty's finger squeezed the trigger, but there was only a hollow -"
    Grams: clank
    Moriarty: Sapristi! He's written in an empty gun for me!

    Tabletop Games 
  • d20 Modern's Cinematic Ammo Rules did not have you track individual bullets. Instead, whenever you rolled a "1" on your die, you missed because you were out of ammo and needed to use your next action to reload.
  • Feng Shui 2 foregoes the ammo tracking of the original game in favor of more dramatic ammunition rules. After the first sequence of any fight where you're blasting off with guns, you have to make a Reload Check based on the Reload Value of your current weapon for every attack you make with it until you fail. Failure on the Reload Check means you've run out of ammo and need to reload, and once you've reloaded, you don't have to reload again until the same shot on the next sequence. Autofire adds more damage to your weapon at the cost of accuracy if you add three or more points of damage (which is added as a penalty to your Guns AV), and at the cost of having to make a Reload Check immediately after your fusillade, with your extra damage added to the Reload Value, for this and every subsequent attack you make with it, even if you're blasting off on the first sequence.
  • Hong Kong Action Theatre also plays fast and loose with ammo, with your guns running empty upon hitting a 3 or less on D20 when blasting off.
  • In New Hong Kong Story, which is based heavily on the Heroic Bloodshed movies, nobody ever runs out of ammo unless they roll a Critical Failure. However, players can also reload their guns at any time for dramatic and gameplay effect before an important shot, as doing so voluntarily gives a small bonus to the next attack roll.
  • Spirit of the Century invokes this with the "One Shot Left" Stunt. At any time, you can declare that you're down to your last bullet, which gives your next shot massive bonuses... but that really is your last bullet. No extra clips, no hold-out weapons... even other Stunts can't prevent this. You are well and truly out of ammo until you take an action to acquire more, which may not be possible depending on where you're fighting. Definitely something you only want to invoke when that last shot will end the fight.

    Video Games 
  • In Def Jam: Fight for NY, Big Bad Crow tries to have the leader of your gang assassinated. Your character chases the gunman into the subway, but he sneaks up on you during a moment of distraction and goes to shoot you, only to find out the hard way that he already used all his ammo.
    Trejo: Say goodbye, bitch! [gun clicks]
    Player Character: [Crack his knuckles] Goodbye, bitch.
  • Heavy Rain: During the fourth trial, the shark, Ethan Mars has to break into a man's home to kill him. Said man turns out to be an armed drug dealer. After he refuses to leave, the drug dealer punches him, pulls out a shotgun, and tries to kill Ethan with it. He chases him around the apartment destroying many of his own valuables and corners him into a bedroom. He lines up the shot and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens.
  • In Life Is Strange's second episode, there's a scene where Chloe practises with a gun she stole from her stepfather in the junkyard. She hands the gun to Max to try when Frank (a drug dealer who Chloe owes a lot of money to) shows up and begins threatening the girls with a knife, causing Max to point the gun at him (giving the player a choice of whether or not to shoot at him). If you decide to shoot, it will turn out that Chloe had already used up all the bullets (but the fact Max was willing to pull the trigger is enough to scare Frank off and impress Chloe).
  • The Last of Us:
    • Exploited in the first game: While Joel or Ellie will start panicking if you run out of ammunition, it's possible to make other hunters try to come closer to you if they hear the clicking of an empty gun. Cue Ellie tossing a brick at them and giving you the opportunity to close in for a Finishing Move.
    • In the trailer for The Last of Us Part II, the antagonist has a revolver & pulls it out when she has one of the protagonists cornered. She hears noises coming from the forest & fires a few shots. When the other protagonist tries to attack her, she fires again but misses as the first protagonist grabs her and pins her down. She tries to fire at the first protagonist, but the revolver is out of ammo.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: If you attempt to shoot a surrendering enemy soldier with an empty gun, they will recognize the click with the series' signature "!" and immediately cause an alert.
  • In the PAYDAY 2 "Deathwish" trailer, an elite Bulldozer has gunned down 3 of the 4 heisters and was caught in the middle of reloading by Chains. Chains nods and slowly takes aim at the Bulldozer, only to hear that his gun is empty too before the two race to reload their weapons first.
  • A heroic version happens at the opening cutscene for Quake III: Arena: Sarge is blasting monsters with his Chaingun until he runs out of bullets ("Fuel Cell: Empty"), then he has no option but to hide behind a pillar.
  • Due to the nature of the game, it's entirely possible to have this happen to YOU in Receiver. You don't have a magic link to your gun that tells you how much ammo you have in your magazine. If you don't keep track of your bullets, it's your fault if you cause a flying taser bot to close in on you by shooting it and your clip is suddenly empty. The game models actual fire arm mechanics to the point where the semi-auto pistols will also fail to fire if you left the safety on or didn't chamber the rounds in your magazine.
  • The tutorial for The Wolf and the Waves takes place on a raft in the open ocean. When the zombies arrive, you always run out of rocks with one left, forcing you to shift into a wolf to kill it.

    Web Animation 
  • In DEATH BATTLE!: "Robocop VS Terminator": Terminator starts firing at Robocop with a powerful shotgun repeatedly as he approaches. When he finally aims the killing shot at his head, he's out of shells. Robocop responds with this.
    Robocop: 9 shots: you're out.
  • Nomad of Nowhere: In the 4th episode, the Nomad is cornered by the travelling circus' cow girl. She fires several shots at him from her revolvers while he distracts her with cream pies. Once he runs out, he's cornered and she aims both of her pistols at him and pulls the triggers...only to find out her revolvers are out of ammo. Nomad then uses his magic to cause the rest of her bullets to run away.

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck: Andrew Hussie tries to shoot the Big Bad Lord English when the latter shows up to kill him, only to realize that he didn't think to reload the "deudly magnum" he lifted off Doc Scratch's body.
    Andrew Hussie: Think it over... WHILE YOU DIE SHIT SHIT SHIT, OH SHIT. FUCK. SHIT SHIT FUCK, I FORGOT.
  • Maggot Boy: The Enfant Terrible Serial Killer Owen decides that it's Better to Die than Be Killed, grabs a gun from their erstwhile captor, and tries to shoot themself in the head, only to realize that the gun is out of bullets. Their absolute rage at the situation implies that it's happened before.
  • Sam & Fuzzy: It's shuriken instead of bullets, but this happens to Mr. Blank just as he's cornered Sam during the climax of the "Noosehead" arc.
    Blank: Huh... I guess ninja can run out of throwing stars after all.

Alternative Title(s): Cant Count Bullets

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